0
Get Alert
Please Wait... Processing your request... Please Wait.
You must sign in to sign-up for alerts.

Please confirm that your email address is correct, so you can successfully receive this alert.

1
Book Forum: Gender Issues   |    
The Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender Role
SAMUEL SLIPP, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2003;160:1361-a-1362. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.160.7.1361-a
View Author and Article Information

Edited by Robert F. Bornstein, Ph.D., and Joseph M. Masling, Ph.D. Washington, D.C., American Psychological Association, 2002, 297 pp., $49.95.

Scientific evidence may not convert all critics of psychoanalysis, but it may initiate a process of rethinking some long-held assumptions. Psychoanalysis, which is based on clinical observation, can provide hypotheses that can be researched scientifically. Thus, aspects of psychoanalytic theory and therapy can be tested to find out which are valid and which are not. In addition to The Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender Role, Bornstein and Masling have edited five books (15) and Masling has edited a book with Paul Duberstein (6) providing a great number of empirical studies in psychoanalysis. In these ambitious undertakings, the editors have assembled many eminent psychological authorities who have operationalized psychoanalytic theories and tested them empirically. This final book deals with the controversial topic of gender development, which in the past contributed to a split in the psychoanalytic movement that is now being healed.

Chapter 1, by Kathleen M. Cain, contains some contradictory research findings regarding helplessness that would have been made clearer had she had access to my work on family interaction in depression (7). Helplessness occurs in children who are pressured to achieve, threatened with rejection if they fail, but not rewarded if they succeed by parent(s) who live vicariously through the child, invading boundaries and interfering with separation and individuation. The child internalizes this relationship, so that failure results in loss of self-esteem but success is never good enough. This "double-bind on achievement," a Catch-22 situation, is like Seligman’s work with animals unable to escape being shocked, resulting in learned helplessness (8). My own work would also have benefited had I had access to the excellent research studies cited in this chapter.

In chapter 2, Sandra W. Russ notes that Rorschach findings show boys to be more aggressive and that primary process thinking is more related to creativity in boys than in girls. However, in play studies, primary process was equally divided sexually. In society, as biology and culture interact, it is most likely that as women gain power they will exhibit more aggression.

Chapter 3, by Phebe Cramer, describes empirical studies of defenses. In one study, entering college students of both sexes were not statistically different in their use of defenses; however, when they were seniors, men scored higher on projection than women. The women tended to turn aggression toward themselves, which is more associated with feminine role adaptation; the women who directed anger outward were more mature and stable. The different defense styles among women are probably related to genetic variability, differences in social opportunities, and being encouraged to achieve by their fathers.

Chapter 4, by J. Christopher Fowler, Ben Brunnschweiler, and Johanna Brock, describes their study of women with bulimia. Our culture socializes female adolescents to value independence and autonomy but also to inhibit aggression and to be affiliative. The authors’ clinical observations include an engulfing relationship with the mother, problems in separation/individuation, difficulties in affect regulation, and alexithymia. The authors’ studies affirm conflicts over autonomy, beginning sexuality, and uncontrollable changes in the female body. Women with bulimia had difficulty separating from their mothers, and many were also furious with their narcissistic fathers.

Chapter 5, by Staffan Sohlberg and Billy Jansson, reports on their double-blind laboratory studies of subliminal stimulation, where a tachistoscope flashes visual messages and images that are too fast to be consciously perceived but can be registered unconsciously, allowing for measurement of cognitive and emotional responses. These authors explore the unconscious responses to the subliminal message "Mommy and I are One" as related to gender. They try to explain the differences in terms of development, but they did not evaluate the subjects’ relationships with their mothers. I have found that underachieving high school youngsters of both sexes whose mothers were intrusive but unrewarding concerning achievement responded poorly to the "Mommy and I are One" message and that they had high scores on scales measuring fear of success (9).

Chapter 6, by Leslie R. Brody, Serra Muderrisoglu, and Ora Nakash-Eisikovits, deals with gender differences in emotions and defenses. It is based on self-report studies, which the authors admit have limitations. In these studies, women reported shame and hurt emotions in response to rejection and men reported these emotions in response to a partner’s demands for intimacy. Men also reported more guilt than sadness, in keeping with the cultural taboo of expressing vulnerability. Cultural forces again seem to be factors, not only in the expression of emotions but also in psychoanalytic theory.

Chapter 7, by June Price Tangney and Ronda L. Dearing, deals with gender differences in morality. This chapter refutes Freud’s concept that women have a weaker superego because they suffer less castration anxiety than men. If anything, women are more willing to acknowledge their anger and manage it constructively. Freud admitted that his theory of female development was his weakest area; he did not know what women wanted. The last sentence of this book ironically comments on Freud’s statement about the supposed weaker superego development in women: "We have no doubt that there are some situations, some contexts, in which a penis is important—but moral development is not one of them." The book is clearly written, covers important areas, and thus is highly recommended for beginning and advanced clinicians.

Masling JM, Bornstein RF (eds): Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Psychopathology: Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories, vol 4. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1993
 
Masling JM, Bornstein RF (eds): Empirical Perspectives on Object Relations Theory. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1999
 
Masling JM, Bornstein RF (eds): Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Developmental Psychology: Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories, vol 6. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1996
 
Bornstein RF, Masling JM (eds): Empirical Perspectives on the Psychoanalytic Unconscious: Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories, vol 7. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1998
 
Bornstein RF, Masling JM (eds): Empirical Studies of the Therapeutic Hour: Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories, vol 8. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1998
 
Duberstein PR, Masling JM (eds): Psychodynamic Perspectives on Sickness and Health. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 2000
 
Slipp S: Object Relations: A Dynamic Bridge Between Individual and Family Treatment. Northvale, NJ, Jason Aronson, 1984, pp 115-146
 
Seligman MEP, Maier SF: Failure to escape traumatic shock. J Exp Psychol  1967; 74:1-9
[PubMed]
 
Slipp S: Subliminal stimulation research and its implication for psychoanalytic theory and treatment. J Am Acad Psychoanal  2000; 28:305-320
[PubMed]
 
+

References

Masling JM, Bornstein RF (eds): Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Psychopathology: Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories, vol 4. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1993
 
Masling JM, Bornstein RF (eds): Empirical Perspectives on Object Relations Theory. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1999
 
Masling JM, Bornstein RF (eds): Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Developmental Psychology: Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories, vol 6. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1996
 
Bornstein RF, Masling JM (eds): Empirical Perspectives on the Psychoanalytic Unconscious: Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories, vol 7. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1998
 
Bornstein RF, Masling JM (eds): Empirical Studies of the Therapeutic Hour: Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories, vol 8. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 1998
 
Duberstein PR, Masling JM (eds): Psychodynamic Perspectives on Sickness and Health. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 2000
 
Slipp S: Object Relations: A Dynamic Bridge Between Individual and Family Treatment. Northvale, NJ, Jason Aronson, 1984, pp 115-146
 
Seligman MEP, Maier SF: Failure to escape traumatic shock. J Exp Psychol  1967; 74:1-9
[PubMed]
 
Slipp S: Subliminal stimulation research and its implication for psychoanalytic theory and treatment. J Am Acad Psychoanal  2000; 28:305-320
[PubMed]
 
+
+

CME Activity

There is currently no quiz available for this resource. Please click here to go to the CME page to find another.
Submit a Comments
Please read the other comments before you post yours. Contributors must reveal any conflict of interest.
Comments are moderated and will appear on the site at the discertion of APA editorial staff.

* = Required Field
(if multiple authors, separate names by comma)
Example: John Doe



Related Content
Books
Dulcan's Textbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry > Chapter 36.  >
Gabbard's Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders, 4th Edition > Chapter 45.  >
The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment, 4th Edition > Chapter 39.  >
Dulcan's Textbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry > Chapter 58.  >
Dulcan's Textbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry > Chapter 36.  >
Topic Collections
Psychiatric News
PubMed Articles